Are kinetic energy weapons possible

The latest war technology is aimed at civilians

In the following we document excerpts from an article by Steve Wright, which appeared on January 14th of this year in le monde diplomatique. The article explains that just under a year after the landmine prohibition treaty came into force, exactly what medico, as the founder of the mine campaign, has always feared will occur: Politicians, the military and the armaments industry are using the ban on the mine to modernize their mass killing machinery. It is particularly perfidious that the mines are to be replaced by so-called "non-lethal weapons" which, according to the dreams of their designers, do the same thing, only more efficiently and less bloody. Steve Wright vividly shows how the political, technical, but also conceptual madness of "non-lethal weapons" can only be understood in the manner of George Orwell: All weapons are lethal, but some are less lethal than others.

In autumn of this year, the German Initiative Group to Ban Landmines will publish a comprehensive study on the latest horror project of the military-industrial complex.

At the end of this century there are more and more wars in which the combat troops no longer face each other directly on the battlefield, but use "human shields". The police and armed forces mingle with the civilian population so that they are not a target. And cruise missiles prove to be politically primitive weapons when they intervene in complex internal conflicts. Graphite fiber bombs may short-circuit the enemy's overland power lines, cluster bombs may disable military installations, but they do not lead to victory. In the wake of the war in Kosovo, a revolution in military strategy is on the horizon. US President Bill Clinton served the US military a comfortable budget increase of 110 billion dollars for the next 6 years to increase "military readiness". According to William Hartung of the US World Policy Institute (New York), the military budget of over $ 260 billion can only be justified with political and economic arguments. A real threat to American security is nowhere discernible, because “even today, US defense spending is more than double the sum of the military spending of all countries that are potential opponents of the United States. For Hartung, arms manufacturers have a decisive influence on US foreign and military policy. If so, the question arises as to what new weapon systems might be used when we think of the military interventions of the 21st century. Since the early 1990s, US defense officials have had a new dream: war without bloodshed. The second generation of weapons that lead to non-fatal injuries, paralysis, or incapacity to move arose from the collaboration of naive American science fiction writers like Quakers Chris and Janet Morris with futurologists like Alvin Toffler and the US Department of Defense. Together they developed a new military doctrine of "non-lethal" warfare based on advanced "soft-kill" weapons.

According to the US Department of Defense, these "weapon systems are expressly designed in such a way that they only incapacitate people and material, while the number of fatalities and the extent of permanent physical, property and environmental damage are kept to a minimum." The proponents of the new doctrine, however, concede that the non-lethal effect of these weapons is more theoretical and therefore prefer to speak of "less lethal" or "soft-kill" weapons. The new military option opens the doors of the US nuclear weapons laboratories of Los Alamos, Oakridge and Lawrence Livermore to the strange bunch of writers and military officials. The label of "war without bloodshed" could hardly hide the fact that in some respects it was all about getting public money. In doing so, they have to perform a number of weapons-related tasks: cordoning off an area, keeping a crowd in check, arresting individuals and stopping civilian vehicles. The instruments used to achieve these purposes include impact projectiles that cause bruises, water cannons for spraying irritants for counterinsurgency, soporific chemicals, stun grenades, electric shock stunning weapons, sonic cannons, net throwers that throw a net over the target person, foam throwers that spray sticky superpolymers, electromagnetic Cannons, kinetic weapons, microwave emitters that "cook" the target person alive, isotropic blinding lasers and non-lethal mines. The highly secret search for the harmless wonder weapon produces a broad arsenal of new weapons that promise a media-friendly symptom treatment of social and political problems, but do not address their real causes.

The US military readily admits that the new doctrine is not intended to replace lethal weapons with non-lethal alternatives, but rather to increase military effectiveness, both in war and in "other situations" where civilians are a primary target. Indeed, development in this innovative sector has advanced rapidly. Until 1995, the US Joint Non-lethal Weapons Working Group tested various types of bullets that do not penetrate the body, but only cause bruises, as well as chemical irritants, disorientation technologies, net throwers and barriers made of watery foam. In 1996, the working group tested further variants of net grenades with sticky substances, non-lethal fragmentation mines, active ingredients for counterinsurgency that cause severe pain, temporary blindness, vomiting or a feeling of suffocation, lubricants that put all kinds of vehicles out of action, non-lethal mines that unfold a wire barrier when triggered and a noise weapon. The most complete picture of the state of the art, however, came from the two conferences on non-lethal weapons hosted by Janes Information Group in 1997 and 1998.

According to the responsible Pentagon department, the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate, the first priority list for six development areas was addressed only to government research institutions. These six areas were: detonators, detonating missiles, tunable non-lethal weapons, long-range launchers, unmanned vehicles with non-lethal weapon systems. From the 63 responses received, two committees selected three projects to be promoted for their technical properties and ease of use: the development of foul-smelling chemical substances specifically tailored to different cultural and geographical environments; Special fibers for net grenades; Non-lethal electromagnetic pulse weapons to paralyze the on-board electronics of vehicles.

The 1998 program consisted of four items: tunable non-lethal weapons; Long range launchers; "Gap Analysis"; non-lethal alternatives to anti-personnel mines. Hildi S. Libby, the system manager of the US Army Program for Non-Lethal Weapons, advocated the development of high-tech weapons "that can be integrated into existing weapon platforms" at the 1997 conference. Her special attention was given to ammunition systems that act as a barrier to terrain. This is not surprising in that the United States will not sign the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty until 2006, when the "appropriate" alternatives are developed. As possible alternatives, Libby presented the following projects: the non-lethal version of a claymore mine, which is based on the design of the lethal anti-personnel mine M18 A1; There is so little concrete data on this type of mine that it is difficult to know exactly what effect it will have. Ammunition for counterinsurgency, which is based on dynamic projectiles with kinetic force, often led to internal injuries, blindness or even death; a 66mm ammunition, a versatile weapon that can be used in conjunction with other systems to contain or attack a crowd; Launching canister for a terrain barrier system, which is used to use large amounts of so-called non-lethal mines, foul smelling substances or bullets against attacking crowds;

an anti-personnel explosive mine that ejects a net and traps the victim; Performance-enhanced versions that have already been tested develop an additional adhesive effect, pain-causing irritants or an electric shock effect, while the larger versions also have razor blades that force the target person to remain completely calm in order to avoid further cuts. At both conferences of the Jane's Information Group, a large number of invisible weapon systems were discussed: the vortex rifle, which sends shock waves against the human body, and sonic cannons, which can be used in stages: they can only produce "annoying noises" or else "Can be turned up to 170 decibels, so that they cause organ and tissue tears and even fatal trauma," as well as pulsed high-frequency weapons. At last year's conference, a “multi-layered defense concept” was presented in the form of a graphic onion: the outer layers form the “less lethal weapons”, while the lethal weapon systems are located on the inside. The mode of action was demonstrated with a video: soldiers intervene with microwave emitters, while the accompanying doctors treat unconscious target persons who are then sorted into civilians and military personnel, wounded and dead for further care.

Apart from the fact that the doctors may have violated the Hippocratic oath during this operation, the official claims that no one was harmed in the exercise cannot be verified in view of the strict secrecy. Steven Aftergood, Director of the Federation of American Scientists, assumes that high-energy microwaves affect people in a very unique way: »They not only attack his body, they also completely penetrate his mind (...). They are supposed to disorient and mentally destabilize him. «Energy weapons act on the thermoregulatory center in the brain and raise body temperature. For example, high-frequency weapons attack the central nervous system. They can turn off brain signals for movement, while laser weapons can cause temporary blindness or can paralyze or twitch the body by triggering electrical shocks. Numerous NGOs have formulated their objections to the non-lethal weapons, pointing out that the very word itself constitutes a conceptual contradiction. Critics argue that the emergency services under stress hardly rely on means that only temporarily shut down their "opponents" when they also have the option of a deadly weapon. This blurs the line between counterinsurgency and mass execution. These weapons not only violate international human rights law, they can also be used under completely different conditions than those intended by their inventors. In Rwanda, for example, such a huge number of people could be killed every day because the perpetrators practiced a certain paralysis technique: First, the victims' Achilles tendon was cut so that they could not run away, and later they were killed in peace. The use of sticky foam, soporific chemicals, and stunning weapons can turn the scene of a confrontation into a deadly trap if lethal weapons are subsequently used against the immobilized crowd.

Basically, the question arises to what extent these weapon systems contradict international treaties and human rights agreements. With this in mind, the ICRC is currently examining the possibility of banning allegedly non-lethal weapons that target certain anatomical, physiological and biochemical points of attack as part of its Sirus project. In 1998 the European Parliament's Fundamental Rights Committee dealt with the report "Assessment of Technologies for Political Control", which was presented by the European Parliament's Technology Assessment Commission. The Stoa report formulates the following recommendations: The EU should commission an independent institution to develop objective criteria for assessing the biomedical effects of so-called non-lethal weapons. It is supposed to have a report drawn up on existing agreements between the EU and the USA. It is expected to publish research on the alleged safety of existing crowd control weapons, as well as any future innovations in this area, before a decision is made to equip the security forces with these weapons. And until this research is completed, it is intended to prohibit police, armed forces and paramilitary special operations forces from being equipped with chemical, kinetic, acoustic, electromagnetic or electroshock weapons, net grenades, blinding lasers, foam sprayers and other paralyzing weapons from the United States or from American license production. By the end of 1999, a further report on the further development and types of technologies for controlling crowds should be submitted at EU level, which also contains an assessment of the likely social and political consequences. The only beneficiaries of such live human testing are the producers of non-lethal control technologies, as the growing riot potential increases the demand for these weapons.

Steve Wright is a Research Associate at the OMEGA Foundation, Manchester. Translation: Bodo Schulze.